August 5, 2009

The Thing About a Wand

Justin Katz

Back in my Dungeons & Dragons days (Surprised? I didn't think so.), the gang at day camp had a surplus of Dungeon Masters, and they would compete for the role by making various promises, among which was my procurement of a three-wish sword. In a lesson on the desirability of being desirable, the subsequent bartering produced a waiver permitting wish number three to be for a refill. As it predictably turned out, exercising the power of my infinity-of-two-wishes sword rapidly made for boring role playing.

The hypothetical wand that Dan Yorke handed me in the studio, this afternoon, had the power to change one thing. Being a realist, even in the midst of fantasy, as well as a believer in the sanctity of the individual person, I opted not to manipulate people with my magic (e.g., by wishing for a smarter, more-conservative electorate). The question, then, may be understood to be: If you could cause one policy explosion in the current system — as it exists and as we all endure it, now — what would it be?

In approaching the question in those terms, the slopes of the state's political terrain become crucial, because the wand doesn't change the nature of the ball nor negate the need to keep working to move it in a beneficial direction. Some affronts in our state's way of doing business might be more irksome or more fundamentally wrong, but the complexities of cause and effect come into play; as the ball rolls, it will flatten some of those unnatural affronts under the weight of a properly functioning representative democracy.

Would an immediate dispersal of authority, as Monique suggests, produce the greatest long-term improvement? I'm not so sure. It would represent a substantial improvement, no doubt, but in the end, it only changes the seats for which interests must battle.

On the other hand, think of the mental effort that could be expended elsewise were we not dragged into constant labor battles at every level of regional government. All other issues would instantly be thrown into play, because Rhode Islanders who currently vote in their union interests would be free to mark their ballots according to other criteria.

In this light, there's a peculiarity to Ian Donnis's use of my answer to trumpet Ken Block's Moderates as a "favorable civic model" compared with, I gather, the more conservative Republicans:

[Republicans] have not demonstrated an ability to run and support a competitive slate of legislative candidates in successive election cycles -- a minimum standard for long-term success.

Considering this, Ken Block and his Moderate Party offer a favorable civic model. They are patiently, diligently pursuing the early steps of a long slog to offer an alternative to the status quo.

It may be that we'll soon see a showdown of the two tectonic plates in the RIGOP as more conservative players strive to build their movement within the shell of the party and the Democrat-lite right-leaners try the Moderates on for size. It would be healthiest for the state if both groups were to manage a degree of cooperation with each other whenever possible, but eventually one faction or the other will be vindicated in its declaration that the other hobbled the Republican party.

I must protest to Ian, though, that my "impish sense of humor" will flash as it may, but Rhode Island's Robin Goodfellow, I am not. Frankly, given my continued advocacy (including on Dan's show, today) for slow-growth reform, from the towns up, "patiently, diligently pursuing the early steps of a long slog" would fit nicely in my private mission statement.

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Enact the Federalism Amendment.
Cure for a multitude of woes.

Posted by: smitty at August 6, 2009 7:37 AM
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